10th Anniversary – Cover Interview Reunion

Thanks For The Memories

See what’s new with more than 40 Connect Business Magazine cover interview subjects.

Business consultants often list the ability to “build and maintain relationships” as one indicator of an aspiring businessperson’s future success. We think it might be the indicator.

In a business context, “relationship building” often refers to the informal relational means people use to get their job done well. It can involve a manager mentoring a department head, a department head getting along with engineering, or engineering working alongside sales. It can be customer service building relationships with customers or human relations developing humane relations with new employees. It can be vendors learning buyer needs. Relationship building also can be a marketing department that builds relationships with customers through advertising.

Said another way, a business is only the sum of the quality of its relationships. If you can build relationships, you can build a business.

That said, for this issue we have renewed relationships with all but two of our 44 cover story subjects. In truth, the sum of our relationships with them—and with our advertisers and company profile subjects—accounts for any success we enjoy. So publishing this special issue is our way of thanking them, and everyone.

We began our cover story format in Sept. ‘96 with Reps. Minge and Gutknecht, and so our review begins there. We hope you “connect” again with our cover subjects, and also with all the exciting movers and shakers slated for our cover in 2004.

[Note: When underlined, click a blue name to read the published story from our archives.]

September 1996 – MINGE/GUTKNECHT

Our first cover with a face actually had two: Reps. David Minge and Gil Gutknect. They were political salt and pepper, yet extremely influential in making laws that directly affect your business. Polite and thoughtful Minge arrived at our Nicollet office wearing suit and tie and his answers tucked close to vest. The more sanguine Gutknecht ambled in wearing polo shirt and shorts, and his answers on his sleeve. For our 10-year anniversary, we wanted to know what Minge was up to. With Gutknecht, since we already knew that, we asked the Republican Congressman about his “passions.”

David Minge from St. Paul: I continued to serve in Congress until 2001. After 16 months of teaching, consulting, fellowship, and special project activities on matters ranging from conservation to healthcare to international trade, Gov. Ventura appointed me to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. In this judicial role I consider and decide appeals from trial courts throughout Minnesota. The work is challenging, interesting and an important part of our legal system. I appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve the people of our state.

Gil Gutknecht from Washington, D.C. wrote on three passions—his work, radio, and picking stocks: Having just come off a work week that started Sunday afternoon at 4:00 and ended at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, what I’m about to say might sound surprising: I love the job I have now. People ask, “Well, isn’t it frustrating?” Of course, it’s frustrating. But everything worth doing is filled with frustration. Raising kids is frustrating.

I also love radio, and have since I was a teenager. My first car had a radio that only got one station. Fortunately, they carried the Twins. They also did, “Talk of the Town.” This was talk radio long before Rush Limbaugh. People called in to discuss the great issues of the day. It was stimulating. So I could easily see myself as a talk show host.

Also, while I was still a teenager, I bought my first stock. I have been fascinated with markets and investments ever since. While I’ve had my share of losers, my long-term track record is better than many fund managers. I would love to start a mutual fund similar to Mairs and Power that only invests in concerns within a 200-mile radius of Rochester.

November 1996 – GLEN TAYLOR

In this issue, we featured Glen Taylor, then-CEO of a private corporation that everyone knows is really big but no one knows how big. One thing for sure: it was big enough for Taylor to buy the NBA Timberwolves and pay Kevin Garnett. Since our ‘96 interview, he has given up his role as Taylor Corp. CEO.

He writes from North Mankato: It’s a major decision for a company or individual when a CEO gives up his or her title. In our case, a transition team has been in place many years. Thus, the changes are not ones that anyone would notice overnight. I have seen my role change. I do not get involved as much in day-to-day decisions. My time now is spent in areas that I thoroughly enjoy, such as working with the team on their vision for the future and helping them to access and motivate current and potential leaders for the Corporation. The most notable change occurs at Company meetings. Where previously I took a much more active role in preparing for meetings, now I have the luxury of coming to meetings and sitting back. I listen and analyze to a greater degree the suggestions and business plans of others. I am thoroughly enjoying this new role.

January 1997 – DR. TONY JASPERS

Dr. Tony Jaspers belongs to more boards and community organizations than Carter’s has liver pills. This is a very busy man. So why would the former President of Mankato Clinic and Speaker of the House of the Minnesota Medical Association recently run for and win a Lake Crystal City Council seat? We know it’s not for the pay.

I ran for City Council because I want to see the Lake Crystal community continue to grow and prosper and it takes a positive, progressive attitude by the Council for this to happen. Also, my current passion is the Lake Crystal Area Recreation Center, which is one of the main reasons why the city is growing so fast. I am a charter member, exercise there regularly, and believe it is an incredible asset for the community.


Mary Ellen Domeier and Denny Warta shared the front cover. Here, Domeier, who recently retired as President of Valley Bank & Trust, updates us on plans for economic growth in New Ulm, and community leader Warta shares his vision for regional planning.

From Domeier: When I was interviewed in 1997, the subject matter was community growth, vision, and revitalization. My concluding comment was, “Rather than focusing on population itself, we need to be focusing on our strengths and building those. The rest will follow.” Today, New Ulm continues to do just that. This past year, the community has invested significant time and effort in identifying proactive ways to capitalize on our strengths and assets. The Chamber’s Activating Community Horizons, yes! (ACH, ya!) effort and a Blandin Advantage New Ulm Leadership initiative, are current catalysts to initiating change. New Ulm’s creative founders envisioned a “good viable, strong community.” Those goals, coupled with a strong work ethic, still drive our strategic planning. While many things change, building on strengths and assets is time here.

Warta from New Ulm: For a region to have economic success, it must have planning, especially long-range planning. Short-term success without long-term planning leads to failure. In the long-term, our area must commit to strategic planning that geographically enlarges the area. I foresee and recommend the informal creation of a quad-city planning panel comprising visionaries from St. Peter, Mankato, North Mankato, New Ulm, and all other communities within these areas. We must overcome the idea that these cities compete. They really do complement each other and can offer a critical mass to enlarge our hometowns into a greater future. Successes in any of these participating cities is never at the expense of the others—rather, it adds to our total strength and livability.


Former First Bank President Starr Kirklin’s dream became Midwest Wireless Civic Center. In May ‘97, he explained to Connect Business Magazine readers how. Today, the Civic Center hosts Minnesota State Mavericks hockey, national recording artists, and the occasional dog and pony show. We wanted to know what he’s been up to since 1997.

Since retiring from First Bank in 1996, I’ve had three assignments with Minnesota State University in University Advancement, two as Vice President. During my five years there I was involved in fundraising for Andreas Theater and Taylor Center, and during that span the University completed its largest campaign ever, exceeding its goal. As for my spare time, I’ve developed a passion for fly fishing, and spend whatever time remaining playing golf. I’ve moved from Mankato to Lilydale, which is on the river near St. Paul. This year along with some Mankato friends I took two great trips: one to England, and later Italy. I still spend time in Mankato serving on the boards of HickoryTech and Minnesota State University Foundation.

July 1997 – KARL JOHNSON

Karl Johnson, our July ‘97 star, had worked on a little ol’ thing called NAFTA, and another called GATT. He also had been President of the National Pork Producers Council. In ‘97, he was a special task force member for Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. Since then, a lot has changed for this rural North Mankato resident.

My business role has changed since being in Connect Business Magazine. First, my brother Paul and I decided to focus entirely on pork production. We sold our interest in Equity Supply and expanded our home sow farm to 1,300 females. Through other acquisitions, we have increased our annual production to 90,000 head, working with 30 independent farmers.

The past six years have been very challenging in our industry. It has seen record production of all meat protein, and with pork prices below cost of production over 50 percent of the time. This has led to tremendous consolidation that includes growers (the two largest in ‘97 are now owned by a packer), packer/processors, and input suppliers such as feed suppliers, animal health, and equipment and building manufacturers. Two important constants: pork is still the world’s most consumed meat protein, and the Upper Midwest is still a low-cost producer.

September 1997 – BOB WETTERGREN

People call Bob Wettergren, “Mr. St. Peter.” In his interview, he told us, “I’ve had two jobs in all my life. One was the Wettergren Dairy; the other was managing the St. Peter Chamber.” Through those two organizations, he mentored dozens of future business and community leaders. How many? For us, he listed only the folks he mentored at Wettergren Dairy. If he’d added on the Chamber, we would have run out of space.

Here are a few that apprenticed under my wife Renee and me: Bill Pell, owner of Pell Insurance/Real Estate, and Chairman of Community Bankservice Corp.; Mark Davis, CEO of Davisco Foods International and Cambria; Al Annexstad, CEO and President of Federated Insurance; John Bresnahan, President of First National Bank, St. Peter; Dave Wettergren, retired Superintendent, Stillwater School District; Earl Fitch, U. S. Postal Service; Bob Wettergren, Jr., Vice President of U.S. Financial Institutions, Bank of America; Tom Bolstad, Business Manager, St. Peter State Hospital; and Richard Witty, Nicollet County Sheriff.


Of all our cover stories, former Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise owner Gary Hopfenspirger certainly was one of the most photogenic. The North Mankato resident retired a few years ago after selling most of his restaurants to longtime managers. “A lot of friends” helped him and KFC Corp. work through that transition, he says. Hopfenspirger had owned ten KFC restaurants in three states, including three in Mankato. As a KFC franchise owner, he often worked 100-hour weeks, which makes a person wonder if the ease of retirement has been hard. He claims that he and his wife have enjoyed traveling the U.S.

Selling out piecemeal to his former managers says something about how much he values loyalty, doesn’t it? He could have sold with less hassle to a single entity.

January 1998 – JO GUCK BAILEY

JO Guck Bailey comes from a musical family of ten in which she was the only one not musically gifted. Her father once said, “About the only thing you’re good at is playing the radio.” And so she does. When interviewed, JO was past Chair of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association, General Manager of Pro Radio Group, and Owner of Sign Pro. She has since sold her interest in what is now Advertising & Design. So what is she up to?

Six years after being in Connect Business Magazine I am doing what I love and loving what I do—radio broadcasting. I am still the General Manager of radio stations KYSM FM-AM and KXLP-FM in Mankato. In many ways it’s still the same, with the exception of the radio ownership changes, three owners in five years. Today I work for Clear Channel Communications, the world’s largest multimedia and entertainment company, which owns over 1,200 radio stations. The change still allows me to operate the stations locally, but with better resources and more opportunity. I also continue to multi-task with small business ownership, including Sign Pro of Southern Minnesota, in Mankato and Owatonna, in addition to serving on nonprofit community boards and assisting with many community projects.

March 1998 – JERRY SCHUGEL

In March ‘98, we described New Ulm trucker Jerry Schugel in part this way: Conjure up an image of a trucker and “Smokey and the Bandit,” cups and cups of acidic coffee, CB radio handles, Pall Malls, and Betty Lou who takes your #2 order of scrambled eggs and bacon may come to mind. But when Jerry Schugel talks about life on the road he mentions “responsibilities,” “securing your load” and “you always have to make sure that your refrigerated units are running the right temperature.” He’s not your typical corporate executive nor your typical trucker.

After hours though, and once his responsibilities have been secured, we should add that today Jerry loves rumbling around on his Harley Ultra Classic, a full-dresser touring bike. “I ride to clear my mind, and it helps my thought processes,” he told us. His son Rick tells us that Jerry recently took on a new hobby: fixing up old street rods. As for his business, in ‘98 J&R Schugel had 350 trucks and did $60 million. Now it has 600 trucks.


Jerry Johnson, cofounder of Mankato’s Clear With Computers (CWC), claimed in May ‘98 that more than 150,000 sales representatives worldwide were using CWC software to sell their products. Its customer list then included Volvo, General Motors, Freightliner, Renault, and Ingersoll-Rand. At the time of our interview, Johnson was not long from selling his half of the 250-employee company and watching its headquarters move to Boston, Mass. Today, CWC no longer exists. What’s left is the publicly traded Firepond, which moved from Boston to Minneapolis and has retained 60 Mankato employees. Its stock price has been high as $108 and most recently near $3. We tried to locate Jerry Johnson for comments, but couldn’t.

July 1998 – JERRY DOTSON

When we interviewed Jerry Dotson, he was the little-known brother of Denny, who owns Mankato-based Dotson Company, the large foundry off Riverfront Drive. Jerry was a Mankato native and Loyola grad. He was also the Director of Technical Education for Seattle-based AT&T Wireless Services. Not a small company. So what’s the future of wireless communications, Jerry?

Look for merging of the cell phone with other pocket devices such as the PDA (address book, calendar), the mp3 player (tunes), and the portable game box. Why carry several units when one can do the work of all? Cell phones will adopt more and more of the browser feature of the PC (albeit on a smaller screen) with full Internet connectivity. This means remote appliance monitoring and control (turn on the coffee so it is hot when you arrive home from work). GPS (Global Positioning) is being integrated into the cell phone. When you request information via the phone browser, your phone will automatically divulge your location (subject to your permission). This means traffic reports, weather, restaurant and theater locations, and maps, all customized to your current location.

I’m now busy working with college faculty to develop their abilities to use new technology such as the PC/Projector in their classrooms. This technology allows a much more visual and animated approach to teaching. I am helping them to develop curriculum and visual materials to exploit this.

September 1998 – CURT FISHER

Curt Fisher picks this trifecta: Fisher Commercial Realtors, Fisher Management, and Fisher Development. It’s been a while since this Mankatoan appeared on our cover, but not much has changed—you still can’t drive three blocks in town without seeing a Fisher sign.

He says: It’s hard to believe 32 years have passed since I began serving the commercial real estate community in southern Minnesota. Much has changed in the this short time, and the Fisher Group has had many opportunities to participate in the changing landscape of our area’s real estate development. In the past five years, we’ve extended our reach through development projects to North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Recently, it was an honor being inducted into the Greater Mankato Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame. I look forward to contributing to our area by continuing to serve on corporate boards and supporting community-based organizations, and finding time to enjoy life with my family and watching the Fisher Group continue to grow.

November 1998 – NEIL ECKLES

In November ‘98, Neil Eckles was CEO of Blue Earth Valley Communications of Blue Earth, and our introduction went this way: While spraying out ideas like bullets from a Gatling gun, Blue Earth’s Neil Eckles, 59, leans forward to make another salient point about the Internet. “If we could speed that up,” he says rat-a-tat-tat, “man, there’s no end to that thing.” His mind seems perpetually locked on rapid fire and sometimes his mouth has a hard time keeping up with all his ideas.

Given his visionary nature, we asked him to predict the future of the telecommunications industry. At present, it is nearly impossible to predict its future. The only true prediction that can be made is that there will be change. It is safe to say we will see as much change in the next five years as in the past 25. There will be increased competition on the local level. Telephone companies, cable TV companies and new start-ups will compete for local subscribers. Each will offer many of the same products and services. Your telephone will become a computer and your computer will become a telephone. Voice data and video will use the same facilities and travel over the Internet to your place of business or home. Homes and business will be served by fiber optic cable in place of copper conductors. A subscriber will pay one bill for TV, pay-per-view movies, Internet and telephone service supplied by the same company over the same facility. Competition will become intense and foster changes in pricing and technology. It is safe to say things will not remain the same.


Maureen Gustafson was President then of Mankato Area Chamber & Convention Bureau. Today, she is Public Relations Director of Mankato Clinic, responsible for marketing, community development and Mankato Clinic Foundation. Always enthusiastic about a good community meeting or project, she has served as Co-chair for Mankato’s Sesquicentennial, Director for Technology Plus, Marketing Chair for the YMCA Board and Chair of the MSU College of Nursing Advisory Board.

She says: In an attempt to overcome the disappointment of never becoming a movie star, I perform in mystery dinners, sing with All That Pizazz, act in industrial videos and enjoy tap dancing on well-tiled bathroom floors.

March 1999 – LEO BERG

New Ulm’s Heritagefest has more annual visitors than any other festival or tourist event in our region. In some ways, retired funmeister Leo Berg misses the oom-pah-pah, but in other ways, no. Heritagefest consumed his life from 1975-2001, when he was either President or Executive Director. Today, he’s still involved, but in less noticeable ways: he volunteers, performs with the Concord Singers, acts as board member, and doles out plenty of gemutlichkeit.

What I miss most are the personal relationships I had with volunteers, organizational heads, suppliers and fest operations workers. On the other hand, it has been a relief not to spend every waking hour on the grounds. It gives me great pride to have played an important role in developing New Ulm’s largest event, which has had a major impact on the local economy. Visiting Germany in Minnesota at Heritagefest is a special experience.


Healthcare was at issue in our May 1999 issue. We featured the tag team of Jerry Crest and Dr. Doug Wood, Executive Vice President and President, respectively, of ISJ-Mayo Health System in Mankato. A lot has happened since 1999.

Jerry Crest writes: Shortly after being in Connect Business Magazine, Dr. Doug Wood returned to Mayo where he assumed the role of Vice Chair of the Dept. of Medicine, and the responsibility of coordinating much of the move into the new Mayo Gonda Building. Dr. Bill Rupp, the former CEO of Luther Midelfort—Mayo Health System in Eau Claire, Wisc., was appointed CEO at Immanuel St. Joseph’s in late 2002. Immanuel St. Joseph and ISJ Clinic’s goal is to become a multi-specialty, integrated medical center serving south-central Minnesota. Among our changes since the cover story: Our interventional cardiology program is approaching a 24/7 operation; we now have two neurosurgeons, making their services available 24/7; and a helicopter has been placed in Mankato.


Like we said then, If a draw on his slow-burning Macanudo and a sip of his Beaujolais Nouveau doesn’t get your blood moving, his in-your-face political pragmatism will. Rick McCluhan, owner of Express Personnel Services and Richard McCluhan & Associates, was the new State Chair of the Reform Party. (He no longer holds that position.) He and buddy Jesse Ventura bench pressed and arm wrestled their way to Reform Party fame. So what has happened to that party, Rick?

The Reform Party was the by-product of Ross Perot and his unsuccessful bids for the presidency in 1992 and 1996 as well as Jesse Ventura’s ascension to the Minnesota gubernatorial seat in 1998. The national Reform Party was overwhelmed by pro-Buchanan supporters seeking matching funds in the presidential election of 2000. They obtained $12 million for their efforts. Governor Ventura and the Minnesota chapter of the Reform Party chose to divorce themselves from the conservative national Reform Party in February 2000, becoming the Minnesota Independence Party. Since then, the national Reform Party has pretty much ceased to exist while the Minnesota Independence Party has maintained major party status at least through the 2006 elections.

September 1999 – TOM ROSEN

Tom Rosen is one big dude, 6’5”, 250-plus. He runs Fairmont-based Rosen’s Diversified, Inc., which in 1998 grossed more than $550 million, then making it Minnesota’s 16th-largest private business. Now it’s much, much bigger. Basically, the business sells farm chemicals, operates a barge terminal, and packs meat, which lately seems a very good business to be in with the Atkins Diet fueling sales. All that aside, for this issue we thought we’d ask Tom about his wife, State Senator Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont). What’s it like being married to her?

What’s it like being married to a state senator? I’m fast becoming used to being introduced rather than usually being the one doing the introducing. At home, the kids sure appreciate good cooking more than they used to. It seems our conversations are no longer about my business, but rather about the State of Minnesota’s business. I am amazed how hard and time-consuming her job is. It is much bigger and contains more responsibilities than I ever imagined. On the whole, being married to a state senator has been a great adventure the whole family enjoys.

November 1999 – STAFF HARDER

Carlson Craft is the flagship company of Taylor Corp. Today, retired Carlson Craft President Staff Harder of North Mankato wakes daily at seven, lifts weights for 30 minutes and is out the door for a two-mile morning walk with wife Sue. They use the walk to talk and pray. Later they listen to Christian radio, enjoy reading to each other, and spend the rest of the day working “for ourselves or others,” he says.

January 2000 – BOB WEERTS

If you’re expecting Bob Weerts to be another Rodin’s “The Thinker” or some introspective M.B.A. who analyzed and plotted his way to success, think again. This guy is one big ball of bubbling electrons that won’t stay put, impulsive, a whirling dervish, a straight shooter but from the hip, who somehow worked and willed his way through a crippling childhood bout with polio to be one of southern Minnesota’s most respected entrepreneurs.

And so went the introduction to our Jan. 2000 cover. Then, Weerts owned Weerts Construction, a tree farm, an apartment complex, Blue Valley Sod, and a floral shop, had been President of Corn Plus, had sold eight Winnie Mart convenience stores and a Dairy Queen—and it would take hours to tell you what all since 2000.

Today, he says managing his Winnebago-based business is easier because he relies more on others. He hired a financial director, and is leaning more on staff. By delegating, he has more time to address transportation, sodding, ethanol, and rural economic development issues. He serves on the Corn Plus board, the Winnebago City Council, and is president of a national sod association. He has more time to travel with wife Jennifer, and coach family members in the business. The extra time also allows him to become more involved with employees. Recently, he financially helped One Bright Star and Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention due to a profound sadness he felt after the loss of a key staff member’s child.


MSU graduate and Freeborn native Patricia Johnson continues to lead Bloomington-based State Fund Mutual Companies as its CEO. It’s still the largest writer of workers’ compensation in Minnesota with gradually increasing market share, recently entering the Wisconsin market. Workers’ compensation costs are on the rapid rise, the largest single contributing factor being accelerating medical costs. Johnson and her company are active in the public policy discussion they hope will lead to further reform so pricing increases can moderate. She still sees a lot of opportunity to help make Minnesota workplaces safer. A recent trip to Mongolia to visit a daughter on a two-year Peace Corps assignment reminded her how far we’ve all come in making great places to work, travel and live.

May 2000 – MARK FURTH

Mark Furth continues as CEO of $1 billion co-op Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI), one of the nation’s largest producers of milk and cheese. Though Upper Midwest dairy production has fallen 10 percent the last four years, New Ulm-based AMPI has grown 15 percent. Mark also is Chairman of the Board of Citizen’s Bank—Minnesota, with a branch opening soon in Lakeville. Recently, he stepped down after three years as President of the Twin Valley Council, Boy Scouts of America.

July 2000 – PAUL WILKE

Paul Wilke, General Manager of River Hills Mall, says that day-to-day work is pretty much the same since his cover, but with one exception: he has trouble keeping up with the meaning behind the words of today’s teens. Like past generations, they enjoy mangling the English language. Working at the Mall, he hears teens talk all the time.

He says: When today’s teens speak, adults almost need a decoder to figure out what they’re saying. Slang has taken on new meaning since the days of “far out” and “groovy.” And if you ask if “dude” is still appropriate, the response will be, “Ugh, don’t use that word.”

Not long ago I saw a teen wearing a “420” T-shirt. I leaned over and sarcastically whispered to a co-worker, “Nice T-shirt.” The co-worker looked at me confused and said, “What do you mean?” Don’t feel alone if you don’t know. It’s hard to keep up with changing teen lingo. But “420” is defined as a time to smoke pot. It is code language that young people use to identify and talk with each other.

The media has greatly influenced teen lingo the last 20 years. Vocabulary once used by prisoners, gang members and pimps has penetrated the mainstream market through media like MTV. If we don’t keep up with the current youth culture we risk getting dissed and totally maxed out with all the sweet trash talk.

So if your daughter says, “Hey mom, hook me up with some grain. Me and my shorty need to run for new kicks,” that just means she needs money so she and her friend can go to the Mall to buy new shoes. If this happens, give her some money. We thank you for the business!


September 2000 brought us to Fairmont again, this time to a $127 million scale manufacturer (Weigh-Tronix) that had just bought out its $254 million British rival. The marriage became Avery Weigh-Tronix, now the world’s second-largest scale manufacturer, and led to President David Castle’s transfer to England. Below is an edited version of his special letter to us.

Dear Connect Business Magazine,

In May 2002, I was transferred to near Birmingham, England, as part of my assignment as Director of Operations Worldwide for Avery Weigh-Tronix. The manufacturing site was built in 1760 by Matthew Boulton, who helped develop the steam engine. Although I love history, having a factory with a 250-year-old building is not ideal for modern manufacturing. Mostly, people here are friendly and helpful. They really like Americans. I cannot tell you how many times people have asked why we would move here when we could live in America. It also seems that most everyone has been to the U.S. at least once; the most common destination, Orlando.

I am surprised how much better the drivers here are than in America; on average they are more attentive and polite. The countryside here is beautiful and the British are very careful not to ruin it. There are no billboards and even in the city there are large parks. We love country pubs and many have good food, and it seems the whole country goes to a pub for a Sunday roast. However, we have yet to find a steak or even hamburger that is as good as any in the U.S.

David Castle, from Smethwick, England.


Her story introduction read, The lady next to the Trix rabbit ears who has been wringing stories about a kid burping the alphabet on Jay Leno will do almost anything to let the whole world know about her employer and her industry. Jeanne Votca Carpenter, Mankato bred and MSU-educated, is a born promoter. At the time of our interview, she was Senior VP of Marketing & Business Development at the Bloomington office of one of the world’s largest public relations firms. But she has moved on.

She writes: The decision to leave Weber Shandwick was one not easily reached. What enticed me about moving in a new direction was the offer to chart a course for the continued growth of public relations at Kerker, a 53-year marketing communications firm in Edina. Public relations has been an integrated Kerker offering since its inception, and that’s impressive. I knew I would have a rich heritage upon which to build. My years working in communications and marketing continue to serve me well in this new role. I value the relationships established throughout my career and the opportunities I’ve had—and continue to have—with the alumnae association of Good Counsel Academy and with Minnesota State University, where I will soon join its Foundation Board.

January 2001 – BILL BRESNAN

Our January ‘01 story introduction began, Madison Lake native William J. Bresnan, as much as any other American, made the cable TV industry into what it is today.

So you thought he would retire after selling out for $3.1 billion in February 2000? Not so fast. We just received this email from Bill, and he’s at it again. You’d think a 71-year-old man would slow down a bit, play golf, and watch cable television rather than buy it. Besides buying more cable, he’s still involved with the National Cable Television Center Museum.

Bresnan from New York: These are exciting times. In March 2002, Bresnan Communications completed the $675 million acquisition of 314,000 subscribers in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. As in the past, we strongly believe in becoming an integral part of the communities we serve. I have already visited many of these communities and I see countless similarities between these customers and the fine people of Minnesota. We have an aggressive two-year, $200 million upgrade plan underway. On a weekly basis, we are launching advanced services such as high-speed Internet service in towns and cities across the region. In addition, we are already able to offer advanced solutions to business, educational and municipal customers throughout the Rocky Mountains. I think there has never been a better time to be in the cable industry. With advanced services such as digital cable, high-speed Internet, high-definition TV, video-on-demand and cable telephony services, the future is full of promise.

March 2001 – DENNIS MILLER

We still don’t know why we called him “Rocketman” on our cover, but it’s probably because we could get away with it. President Dennis Miller and Mankato-based Midwest Wireless was launched with one employee in 1996 and had grown to over 300 as of our March 2001 publishing date. Now they’re building again. So how did he take being called Rocketman?

You have no idea what you did when you gave me that nickname! At our first senior staff meeting following the cover story, the staff played that Elton John song as I entered the room. I still hear about it now and then. In all seriousness though, if I’m “Rocketman,” it’s only because of the “Stars” that surround me. I’m speaking, of course, about our dedicated Midwest Wireless owners and employees. Through their hard work and relentless dedication to meeting our customers’ needs, we have continued to reach new heights. While our success is gratifying, what’s truly rewarding for all of us is the knowledge that the services we provide are profoundly impacting the way people live and work. It is this realization that will continue to motivate all of us on our mission of continuing to dream and discover communication services to enhance the lives of those living in our area now and for years to come.

May 2001 – Z. SAM GAULT

His story introduction told all: Z. Sam Gault doesn’t own the biggest or by any means the most powerful bank in southern Minnesota, but his family has owned one in St. Peter, Minn., since the days of U.S. President Chester Arthur. He owns Nicollet County Bank, which in 2000 had nearly $100 million in assets. And Gault tenders an excellent interview: often his answers are sharper than Lizzie Borden’s axe.

Sam became President in 1956 at age 25. He tells Connect Business Magazine that in 2002 he retired, and to everyone’s surprise he loves retirement. He says that could be because of his children taking over bank management and retaining his great staff. As a result, he says, “I am extremely comfortable.”

July 2001 – FRED LUTZ

North Mankato’s Fred Lutz was a national figure in the soft drink industry in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In 1987, his family sold its Northland Beverage bottling plant to Wis-Pak, and five years later its distribution business to a Pepsi distributor. For our anniversary issue, we asked him if he’d like to add something to his interview.

In the interview then, I did not make much mention of the women in my life. Starting with my mother Mary Lutz, my wife Diane of 36 years, daughter Angela Amann, daughter-in-law Kristin Lutz, and sister Patty Lloyd. All have played big parts in my life at various times of my 63 years. The emergence and subsequent contributions of women in the workforce have positively impacted me. For all these women, I am grateful.

September 2001 – BOB ALTON

Mankatoan Bob Alton retired as President of $105 million HickoryTech Corp. on January 1, 2003. He says that retirees saying they are busier after retirement than before likely are telling the truth. He adds: My wife and I have taken several trips to places we’ve wanted to see, and are planning more. Add to our travels the time I spend fishing, playing in a band for charity events, serving on several boards including HickoryTech’s, and the days seem to rush by. I am fortunate to be able to do these things at this time in my life, and not a day goes by that I don’t give thanks. My best to the fine people at Connect Business Magazine. Keep up the good work.


She’s still the big cheese. Sharron Moss-Higham and Kraft-New Ulm were introduced this way: Forty-year-old Sharron Moss-Higham manages Kraft Foods’ largest North American Process cheese plant—and perhaps the world’s largest. It is 350,000 sq. ft. of aged cheddar cheese and 950 employees wearing hair nets. All those 22-ton trailers rumbling out of New Ulm to distribution points all over are trying to satisfy American’s long-standing hunger for Kraft process (or “processed”) cheese, the nation’s fourth bestselling product line in grocery stores. This year Kraft-New Ulm alone will manufacture and ship billions of Kraft process cheese slices, all of America’s Handi-Snacks, and nearly all the nation’s Velveeta, the kitschy cheese loaf adored by millions.

Though she’s still at Kraft-New Ulm, we didn’t receive a response from her, likely due to vacations and holidays and work commitments. After all, this is Velveeta time of year. Go to www.connectbiz.com and you can read her Nov. ‘01 interview.

January 2002 – DEB FLEMMING

One question asked of Waseca native and Free Press Editor Deb Flemming was, Why not publish on Sundays? Her reasons for not doing so were “greater costs” and “demands of increased profitability from our company and stockholders.” So now The Free Press publishes on Sundays. What gives?

Why publish on Sundays? It’s good for our readers, the community and the newspaper itself. As I mentioned when we last talked, I’d been a proponent of launching a Sunday edition of The Free Press since returning to Mankato in 1995. Sunday is traditionally the heaviest newspaper readership day of the week and I saw the lack of a Sunday newspaper as a missed opportunity. Fortunately, our new owners felt the same way. In April 2002, Ottaway Newspapers Inc. sold The Free Press to Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. It didn’t take long for the issue of a Sunday newspaper to surface. In late 2002, the decision to add the Sunday newspaper was made. The first Sunday edition was published May 4, 2003.

March 2002 – BOB GUNTHER

Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont) is now mighty important in matters economic due to the GOP’s House dominance. Apparently, his experience squeezing the Charmin and handling thousands of picky grocery customers at Gunther’s has served him well. We wanted to know—stupid question—if he saw any differences in the governing styles of Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty. You can read between the lines.

Gov. Pawlenty has worked with the legislature in a productive and respectful manner. He is well versed and consistent on the issues affecting our state and approaches those issues in a straightforward style. Gov. Ventura was outspoken and although Gov. Pawlenty is equally candid, he delivers his messages tactfully. Gov. Pawlenty is a phenomenal communicator and he tends to be more predictable in office than Gov. Ventura. Gov. Pawlenty has upheld integrity, principles and accountability in the ten months he has been in office. He respects the Office of the Governor and the Governor’s Residence and considers them privileges.

May 2002 – TOM ENGDAHL

When we interviewed COO Tom Engdahl, he was racking up frequent flyer mileage between Minneapolis and Germany, and gobbling down lots of matjes and labstaus at Hamburg’s Steigenberger Hotel. Times have changed. Now he stays home more often. Engdahl runs Waseca-based Brown Printing, the 2,700-employee, $380 million offspring of German publishing giant Gruner + Jahr. To drop a few names, Brown Printing publishes New England Journal of Medicine, Minnesota Monthly, PC World, YM, and American Family Physician.

He writes: As it happens, since we last talked, my trips to Germany have shrunk from about eight to only twice each year. Over the last two years, the business climate has remained very challenging, and the need to effectively interact with our parent company, G+J, for purposes of both aligning future plans and procuring capital funding, has also remained very high. What changed since our interview is the person leading all the G+J printing divisions—my boss. He speaks fluent English and spent a number of years in different assignments within Brown. As such, we know each other well and phone and e-mail more than adequately substitute for getting together quite so often. Language and familiarity were issues with his predecessor that no longer exist. As you might expect, this is a positive development for me and Brown Printing Company.


Former Mankatoan Lowell Andreas was President of $22 billion Archer Daniels Midland before retiring, and today he and brother Dwayne are ADM Directors Emeritus. Perhaps you’ve heard of ADM. He and wife Nadine live in Naples, Florida, and keep a summer home in West Mankato. He says, simply, “See you in May.”

September 2002 – MARK DAVIS

Mark Davis still runs $450 million Le Sueur-based Davisco Foods International. It’s no secret he’s a libertarian, quite fond of Cato Institute and leaner government. For our 10-year anniversary, what better question to have him answer than this: If you could eliminate one federal agency, which one would it be and why?

In top form, he says: It’s not so much a question of eliminating a federal agency. We must first get a handle on those agencies’ continual and unhindered expansion of their ability to create and institute new regulations. These regulatory rules are created without Congressional oversight and the public has no input or knowledge of these costly activities.

In 2002, 4167 final rules were issued by regulatory agencies. Congress passed and the President signed only 260 of them. The rest were merely mandated by the agency’s themselves. The Cato Institute and Mercatus Center have estimated 2002 regulatory costs at $860 billion, equivalent to 8.2 percent of U.S. GDP. Regulatory administration alone costs $30.1 billion annually. In 2001, regulation added more to the cost of doing business in the U.S. than all U.S. corporations’ pre-tax profits.

All of that is at the federal level. Adding the impact of state, county and municipal regulatory activity, one can understand why U.S. manufacturers, in order to remain competitive, are looking at less regulatory stifling locations for their investments in factories and jobs.

November 2002 – AL FALLENSTEIN

Taylor Corp. Executive VP Al Fallenstein and wife Erla, passed away December 16, 2003 following an automobile accident on Highway 14. The Free Press reported Taylor Corp. President Brad Schreier as saying that Al never missed a Golden Gophers basketball game. There was one game he missed, Brad. When Al, a quadriplegic and wheelchair user, learned that this editor’s daughter also used a wheelchair, he gave the editor two front-row seats for the Purdue game last February. My daughter and I will always remember his generosity.

Here was the first half of our introduction to him in November 2002:

It’s likely Al Fallenstein has never thought of himself as a corporate leader, or an inspiration, but nonetheless he is both and more. If what Napoleon said is true, namely, that “in war, the morale is to the material as three is to one,” then it’s no wonder the 85 division Taylor Corp. army has won so many corporate battles.

In our hearts: Al Fallenstein, 1940-2003

January 2003 – DAN GISLASON

Lawyer Dan Gislason works at New Ulm’s Gislason & Hunter, the largest law firm in outstate Minnesota—and the one with the snazziest headquarters. Gislason was touched by the tie-in interview we ran alongside his, and had to share.

He writes from New Ulm: The interview you published of Bob Wirtz reflected the personal side of the Gislason extended family. It gave “personality” to me, who you referred to as “The Technicolor Lawyer.” Hopefully, Bob’s interview also caused your readers to reflect upon the importance of friends and family. He focused on what makes successful people successful: friends, family, giving, sharing, and love. Achievement does require a great deal of time and effort. Talent, alone, is inadequate. Bob exemplifies the need for us to go beyond our workplaces to truly achieve. It was a joy for me to know that Connect Business Magazine also supports those values in what otherwise can be a difficult and impersonal business environment.

March 2003 – JOHN LINDER

Our introduction to John Linder began this way: Only four persons from the nine-county area around Greater Mankato have been inducted into the Minnesota Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Of the four, three are Linders. Our cover story, John Linder, isn’t in the MMB Hall of Fame—yet, but he is creating lots of radio waves in our state’s broadcasting industry. As CEO of Mankato-based Minnesota Valley Broadcasting, Linder owned and operated 15 radio stations in Minnesota and Iowa.

For you, he says this about his hometown, and his company’s direction: I’ve always felt very lucky that in the ‘40s my father and grandfather chose Mankato as the city in which to build a new radio station. They could have picked Bismarck or Huron. Mankato has a lot going for it. MSU brings to the city cultural events, sports, and a vibrant atmosphere lacking in many towns Mankato’s size. Mankato is well-situated geographically, and has emerged as the retail hub of southern Minnesota. The city has great schools, natural surroundings—it’s just been a wonderful place to spend a life and grow businesses. Our business philosophy recognizes Mankato as a special place. We will never turn our programming decisions over to some satellite broadcaster on one of the coasts, but will continue to draw on the city’s own great talents.

May 2003 – ED BOSANKO

One topic we didn’t touch on with Ed Bosanko in his cover story was his personal connection to farming. So we will now. For the record, he still tills his South Dakota family’s farm and certainly it helps him better understand his many customers at $250 million co-op Watonwan Farm Service of Truman.

I have always been involved with the family farm. I was born and raised there. My brother and I took over completely when our father retired in 1992. We both hold full-time jobs and use vacation time to plant and harvest. Though we fit the classic “hobby farmer” stereotype, our farm consists of 1,200 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. Farming it takes less time than a “normal” farm operation because we are strictly no-till—using roundup ready corn and soybeans for weed control. Our wives help as well. I guess the saying, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy” is true.


Mankatoan Louise Dickmeyer ran Valley Industrial Development until 1997; that later became Greater Mankato Economic Development Corp. She worked for a division of Citizens’ Scholarship Foundation until 1999; that later became Scholarship America. After a few years, the Minneapolis Chamber promoted her to CEO; that became the Minneapolis Regional Chamber. Sound confusing?

Anyway, Louise wanted to add one more thing to her July 2003 interview: I’ve worked in outstate Minnesota, as well as the Twin Cities, and have developed a perspective that cuts both ways. One issue that stands out is transportation. In rural areas, transportation means roads and bridges, while in metro it means roads, bridges, bus systems, light rail, and commuter rail. The metro faces tough battles on transportation funding. However, more than 75 percent of the state’s gross product is generated in the nine-county metro area. In my opinion, all Minnesotans should hold the need for an efficient metro transportation system in high regard and see that investments are made for our collective good.

September 2003 – BOB GALLAWAY

Down-home Bob Galloway runs that itsy-bitsy $500 million ag-related business on Riverfront Dr. in Mankato. He was a mite tickled by his flashy cover story, and feels that it seems to have helped his company’s local identity. Previously, Ridley Inc. had none.

He says: The cover story helped people in this region discover us. It has been amazing to me the number of responses or inquiries I’ve had about the cover story, i.e., phone calls, e-mails, notes from a very wide range of people, and words from friends, business acquaintances, church members, wait staff at a few restaurants, and the young woman that cuts my hair. Their response was either, “I had no idea of the scope of Ridley” or “very interesting to learn about a local company with such wide-ranging interests” or “I knew Hubbard Milling was sold but had no idea of what had transpired since.” The cover story helped raise local awareness of Ridley Inc. and Hubbard Feeds Inc. and on top of that, it was fun. A big thanks to Connect Business Magazine.

November 2003 – AL ANNEXSTAD

It’s been only two months since St. Peter-bred and MSU-educated Al Annexstad of Owatonna’s Federated Insurance appeared on our cover. Do you really need to know what he’s been up to since November? Not much has changed.. Besides the cover story subjects, we wanted to include updates here on every company profiled the last ten years. But that would have been impossible, logistically speaking.

© 2004 Connect Business Magazine. All Rights Reserved.

Daniel Vance

A former Editor of Connect Business Magazine